The Denis Theatre Foundation is a big step closer to meeting its fundraising goals.
Mt. Lebanon resident Ellie Hall has made what she terms a substantial pledge to the Brian Hall Fund, named for her late husband, as part of the effort toward restoring and reopening the theater, in Mt. Lebanon's Washington Road business district.
Her contribution, the largest to the foundation by an individual donor, brings the Hall fund total to $100,000 and the overall amount of money raised to more than $2 million.
"Without a doubt, it's a project that I believe very strongly in and want to see happen," said Mrs. Hall, a member of foundation's advisory board who formerly served on the board of directors.
Her husband died in August when his airplane crashed near Harrisonburg, Va. He was 50.
"I thought about all of the various ways to honor him and to ask people to honor him," Mrs. Hall said. "I was really looking for something that he loved and also related to something we had the passion for together, and our family, too."
She established the Brian Hall Fund with friends and family members, with the money designated toward construction costs. With the fund reaching $100,000, Mrs. Hall has secured naming rights for a section of the Denis.
"Brian was a man who loved to indulge," she said. "So I thought the concession stand would be perfect for him."
The Denis opened in 1938 and closed in 2004. The renovation is in two phases. The opening of the first of three film screens and completion is targeted for early 2014.
Phase 2 will include reopening a large screen on the main floor and a smaller theater upstairs, as well as creating a multiuse room for performance art and educational programs.
The total fundraising goal is $4.5 million.
"We're working with architect to get an updated number, and based on that, we will be able to determine how much more we need to raise and be able to get a schedule for when we can go to construction," said Jane Delano, co-interim executive director for the Denis Theatre Foundation.
"We hope that Ellie's very generous gift will make others see what the Denis will bring to the South Hills and the rest of region," she said.
Before moving to Mt. Lebanon from Colorado six years ago, Mrs. Hall was active in organizing the Rocky Mountain Women's Film Festival, the longest continuously running women's film festival in North America.
"I had such success with that, I thought maybe I can find people here who are interested in film and the arts," she explained.
She discovered the Denis Theatre Foundation and volunteered her services.
"It is exactly the kind of project that Brian and I came to love," she said. "I thought, bingo! There's my cause. Maybe this will be our group of friends. Sure enough, it has turned out to be that.
"Both Brian and I came to the Denis with full hearts and expectations, and it did not let us down."
The foundation's next major fundraising event is a "Here Comes the Sun" gala June 20 at the Reed Smith Centre, Downtown. In the meantime, contributions always are welcome.
"There are other naming rights available," said Penny Richichi, the other co-interim executive director. "If people are interested in supporting the Denis Theatre, they can call us about donations or various naming rights."
Mrs. Hall encourages local residents to take an active interest in the cause.
"It's really important for people to think of the Denis not just as a movie theater," she said, "but to think of it in terms of quality of life that we provide to ourselves and our families."
For more information: 412-668-0737 or www.denistheatre.org.